The week leading up to Reid’s tonsillectomy surgery was finally upon us and it had been a year and a half in the making. The weeks leading up to the surgery seemed so slow and were full of no sleep and escalating emotions. When I say that Reid was having a hard time with his emotions, it wasn’t like normal 4 year old emotions (trust me I know, I’m a well educated psych gypsy). Reid was having a hard time processing or controlling emotions in the mornings and in the evenings. After a full night of 10 hours of sleep, he would wake up grumpy, unrested, and every little thing would throw him into a meltdown. These meltdowns weren’t just bad behavior. They were overwhelming floods of emotions that the little dude couldn’t get control of. In other instances, he was having a really hard time listening and was having a hard time focusing.
I was so tired, so so tired, of waking up every night, multiple times per night, and still functioning the next day at work and at home. After short nights and long days, I would use my tip top parenting skills when Reid would struggle. I would get on his level, help him take deep breaths, encourage him to have quite time alone, and almost doused him in some essential oils, but my scent hating husband may have killed me. Needless to say, the relief felt so close.
We started talking to Reid about the process 3 days beforehand. He’s one that really holds onto to things and worries a lot, so that is why we kept it short and non-specific. We also never really told him that he was having surgery, just that he was going to the doctors for a special appointment and that he would miss some school, which he thought was gonna be so fun…
The Day Before Surgery
We didn’t get the surgery time until 4pm the day before. I didn’t really like the idea of not knowing the exact time of the surgery, because it made it hard to plan care for Harper. Trying to plan our schedule for the day really depended on the time. Naively, I thought that we would need help in the morning. Being 4 and reading the strict instructions that there should be no eating past midnight and stopping liquids 2 hours prior to arrival, I was expecting it to be at 9 a.m. I didn’t think for a second that they would make a 4 year old not eat or drink past noon. Hell, I can barley fast for a 10 a.m. blood draw. SPOILER ALERT: it was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. WHAT.THE.HELL. Apparently it is hospital policy to schedule surgeries for the day in order of age, which is why his wasn’t earlier. The enormity of what that meant didn’t really sink in until the next morning.
Brendan and I spent the evening before preparing in two different ways. Brendan was responsible for post surgery recovery items and raided the grocery store for things that were soft and kid/dad friendly. Brendan bought applesauce, Danimals, 3 kinds of popsicles, Jello, sherbet (sorbet?), and butterscotch pudding (Dad snack because no self respecting kid would like freaking butterscotch pudding). He also bought a big slice of rainbow cake for Reid (red velvet for himself) to try to stockpile some calories before the famine started.
I spent the evening taking Reid, Harper, and their friend Ella to dance class and then to Chick Fila for a last rendezvous at the play place, hopefully tire him out. They had some leftover chicken nuggets that we brought home hoping to get him to finish them off before bed. We came home sufficiently worn out, ate some rainbow cake, and hit the hay. Some people gave me advice to wake Reid up right before 12am and feed him another meal. That was a
f-no hard pass in my opinion, thinking the only thing worse than keeping him from eating, was to have both of us working on a lack of sleep.
The day of the surgery
Reid slept in, which usually never happens. Harper was unusually alert and cheerful which never happens. Without knowing the circumstances of the day, Harper immediately woke Reid up and offered to go get Hershey Kisses and snacks. Um, listen here little lady, we’ve got a mission going down and you’re not sabotaging it, so take your cheerful snack-giving self and get the hell to school.
I decided to take Reid with us to drop off Harper. I figured it would help kill some time and keep him firmly strapped into one place. On any other morning I am begging the crew to just sniff their breakfast, let alone eat it before we get to school. I packed Harper’s breakfast for her to eat at school, but her sabotage continued, demanding a snack or she might fade fast on the 15 min ride to school. Reid followed suit and begged for snacks too, proclaiming his starvation and negotiating with me to give him “just one snack from Harper’s lunch box”.
The begging continued and we decided to stop at Wawa to curb the hunger with a slushy (half Sprite, half blue raspberry). Any other day this bad boy would have been down the hatch and ruining a meal in no time. Not this day, this day of all days, it wasn’t good enough and he actually wanted a snowball. Here, here’s a spoon, pretend. NOPE, not today silly mom, you’re gypsy tricks are not gonna work. Jello- want some Jello? Nope, that sucks too as a matter of fact.
We gave popsicles to buy us some time. We didn’t realize he wasn’t allowed any red dye before surgery and all the cool popsicles that Brendan bought of course had red dye: queue additional grumpiness. Our kids are popsicles addicts so we luckily had a not-so-cool stash to choose from.
We were closing in on 10 am and he was getting desperate. He snuck into the pantry and acquired some chips. What the HELL? Was I going to have to lock the pantry and fridge? I wasn’t actually prepared for this level of scrounging. We offered another Sprite as a peace offering. A good soda treat has ruined many a dinner in this house, but if it didn’t have some substance to it, he wasn’t falling for it. All he kept asking for was a donut. FML.
We had another hour and a half before we were going to leave. We had to be at the hospital by 1pm and I decided that we should leave at 11:45. That would give us a nice leisurely stroll to the hospital, enough time to find a parking garage in Baltimore, and navigate our way to the Pediatric Surgery Center through the massive University of Maryland Medical Center.
I was getting hungry and felt guilty about eating in front of Reid so I asked Brendan to take Reid out front to play. After a few mins I realized that Reid was playing in the van which is actually a pretty normal occurrence. Then it hit me……Oh Sh!t, I bet he is in the van eating those left over chicken nuggets. I KNEW that if it wasn’t he nuggets it was some other poor discarded snack that was tossed from a lunch box long ago and left for dead on the van floor (if you’re rockin’ a mom van, you know the deal).
He had the sh!t eating-est grin when Brendan confirmed consumption of the nuggets. At first he pretended that he didn’t eat any, but the tiny morsels of chicken stuck in his in his teeth told the whole story (thank you Chick Fila for serving actual chicken). He wouldn’t actually confirm the number of nuggets he ate, only to share that he “ate them all gone”. Thanks buddy, that’s helpful. The optimistic, desperate mom in me decided that it couldn’t have been more than one maybe two because they only had 4 counts to start with.
I checked the surgery instruction sheet and it said that not following the rules would result in a cancelation or delay. OK perfect, this wasn’t a full meal and it was still about 2.5 hours before his surgery, so we should be ok. At the worst, we will just get delayed a bit since it only takes the stomach like 2 hours to empty, I was hopefully we could still proceed that day.
The Aftermath of Chicken Gate
Yeah no. After actually driving to the hospital, parking, walking through the small metropolis of UMMC, the very first question they asked was if he had any food or drink today. In that millisecond I wanted to lie. I wanted to pretend that he hadn’t had anything and continue the course as normal. I knew deep down that admitting he ate would be a show stopper. Brendan and I both had off work, we had called on family to pick up Harper, we had planned and prepared for the post surgery recovery. Most of all, we had a year and a half of anticipation, prayers for relief, and many hopes that this surgery would help Reid.
Making that decision to share with the Doctor and Anesthesiologist that he had ate was a hard one, but one that really exhibits what parenting so hard. Making non-self serving, hard choices in the face of adversity is what parenthood is full of (the enormity of this responsibility still hasn’t set in even after 4+ years). Having the courage to make the tough call was easy when I put it in perspective. The reality was, this was a major surgery with real risks, and my son’s safety meant more than any full nights sleep ever would. The surgery was canceled and we were off to get the boy a damn donut for all his hard work.
It would have been easy to be mad at him, to be upset that he knew better, to be mad at Brendan for being outsmarted by a 4 year old (love you babe!), but I chose to keep my spirits up. Being resilient is actually like my super power. I can always dig deep and find an extra gear and see the good in the bad. I decided that we would make the best of it, go have a Mommy, Daddy, and Reid day. We went and had tacos and hot donuts and finally found the courage to laugh about the hilarity of the situation.
Reid earned some bonus points for his survival skills, up to that day, the Doomsday Preppers might have actually issued him a negative number. We now have a hilarious story to tell for years and years to come. He’s decided to take the actual number of consumed nuggets to his grave and still evokes the 5th amendment when questioned.
The surgery is rescheduled to July 18th and I’m already working on the game plan for next time: a forged birth date that makes him look one and a straight jacket. KIDDING or am I?!?